By Subramanian Iyer
It’s happening more and more: IT workers with over a decade of experience are finding their skill sets to be suddenly obsolete.
In many cases, they are still able to execute current roles in areas such as data center operations, testing and quality assurance, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) customization. However, the demand for such jobs is decreasing, limiting workers’ ability to progress or change companies.
Microsoft recently announced a reorganization that impacts thousands of traditional IT jobs, even as the company is hiring in significant numbers for cloud-based roles. Hewlett Packard Enterprise announced a cut of 10 percent of its global workforce, or nearly 5,000 employees, as it restructures for newer challenges in the cloud space. Meanwhile, a report by HfS research indicates the US could shed over 770,000 low-skilled positions and India could shed over 640,000 positions in the next five years, as more back-office roles are automated and work is consolidated across fewer workers.
While the IT sector is reducing recruitment and increasing layoffs in areas such as infrastructure operations and outsourcing, the number of IT vacancies in specialties such as data science is increasing. Some technology companies are shedding their workforce while others are increasing their numbers. Amazon, for instance, is expected to hire thousands of people for its new headquarters alone. This trend has left IT workers scrambling to reskill themselves.
As with most areas in IT today, a primary cause for the disruption is cloud. One of the most significant impacts of cloud is the commoditization of IT deployments. This means faster technology deployments and fewer internal resources needed to deploy the technology.
As companies and workers adjust to the new digital landscape, certain technology areas are enabling businesses to explore new models and sources of revenue. The following seven areas will be the next drivers of job creation in the IT sector as traditional IT roles are—like many other things in modern life—commoditized.
1. Internet of Things (IoT): IoT platforms are becoming increasingly important as the number of devices that transmit, receive, and process data increase. The use cases for IoT will continue to grow rapidly. Opportunities exist for people who are able to identify use cases for IoT in businesses and make them a reality, such as Agile Full Stack developers. And Sam Ramji, the CEO of Cloud Foundry, believes the IoT skill shortage could increase to as much as 10 million IoT developers by 2020. Successful candidates will understand programming across the front and back ends, as well as embedded systems.
2. Artificial Intelligence (AI): Even as AI is arguably on its way to becoming one of the most overused words in the technology space, its potential cannot be denied. AI jobs include, among others, analysts who identify where AI can be applied to business processes; machine interaction modelers who model machine behavior to employee behavior; and context designers who design deep learning skills for systems to understand business context.
3. Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR): As AR/VR technology becomes more widely used in customer service globally, specialized AR/VR skill sets will be in high demand. This includes delivering remote and complex services, applying enhanced learning outcomes to jobs, and providing highly complex analytics visualization. AR/VR jobs include niche roles such as 3D programming (modeling, animation), AR/VR user interface/experience designers, and Agile program managers.
4. Analytics: Fast data and analytics are becoming more commonplace as the amount of real-time data processed for decision making increases exponentially. This requires a high degree of specialization as datasets and, therefore, recommendations and actions span the entire range from large groups of people to individuals. And companies will need this specialization more and more—in fact, the number one best job in the US this year, based chiefly on number of job openings, is data scientist. And by next year, there could be a shortage of 190,000 people with deep analytical skills in the US alone, according to McKinsey Consulting.
The demand for skills and experience in these seven areas will impact not only delivery roles, but every single role in the IT industry—including sales and marketing.”
5. Networks: Perhaps among the most fundamental of requirements for transporting data, network technology is undergoing major disruption as cloud computing takes hold in enterprises. Software-defined networks are gaining a rapid foothold as network usage shifts from private networks to the public internet. Roles here will involve software-defined network controllers, OpenFlow, northbound/southbound APIs, and compute technologies and hypervisors. In addition, network roles will involve a detailed understanding of 6LoWPAN and ZigBee.
6. Security: As companies process higher volumes of data, the criticality of the results and actions taken is also increasing. This is true for everything from home automation to smart cities. The importance of securing networks, devices, and data cannot be stressed enough. Traditional security measures are giving way to newer security technologies and techniques requiring entirely different skill sets than before. Blockchain is a classic example of how security will potentially be turned on its head as a response to innovative data protection requirements. It is a fairly safe bet that changes in security will involve a detailed understanding of distributed ledger technologies, so blockchain will be an essential technology to learn, even as companies overhaul their application architecture through hypersegregation.
7. Integration: A mechanism is needed to connect applications, data, and devices that is both scalable and seamless. Point-to-point connections will not achieve this—companies are deploying microservices-based and other loosely coupled architectures. Managing integration between these elements requires deep learning and specialization in areas such as API economy.
These seven enablers will define jobs of the future. Even as firms reduce reliance on traditional applications, the demand for jobs in these areas will show a huge increase, far outstripping the supply of resources with these skill sets.
The demand for skills and experience in these seven areas will impact not only delivery roles, but every single role in the IT industry—including sales and marketing. Traditional sales representatives cannot sell AI the same way that they have sold database software or hardware infrastructure. Selling AI requires a clear and detailed understanding of use cases and techniques and the ability to model pricing based on revenues that each use case will impact.
As an IT worker, a key question to ask yourself is, will I be able to execute a forward-looking role in three years’ time? And the answer can be yes—with the right skill set that involves one or more of these technology enablers.
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